In the Garden of Sonder: A Music from Home Feature Film
Music from Home resumes its virtual offerings with In the Garden of Sonder. The film stars soprano Ibidunni Ojikutu dramatizing Moments in Sonder (2017), a song cycle by Dr. B.E. Boykin which is set to poetry by Dr. Maya Angelou. With the musical support of pianist Jessica Evotia Andrews-Hall and harpist Mona Terry, Ibidunni guides viewers on an emotional journey as she navigates love, loss and pain. Music from Home resumes its virtual offerings with In the Garden of Sonder. This film stars soprano Ibidunni Ojikutu dramatizing Moments in Sonder (2017), a song cycle by Dr. B.E. Boykin which is set to poetry by Dr. Maya Angelou. With the musical support of pianist Jessica Evotia Andrews-Hall and harpist Mona Terry, Ibidunni guides viewers on an emotional journey as she navigates love, loss and pain. In part two of the film, "A Legacy Continued", Dr. Maxine Mimms and Dr. William Chapman Nyaho reflect on their personal relationships with Dr. Angelou. In the Garden of Sonder highlights the agency and power of Black Womanhood. The film is directed by Texas-born, Seattle-based curator, choreographer, and dance artist Jade Solomon Simmons.
Creative Team & Contributors:
Jessica Evotia Andrews-Hall
Mona Terry, CMP
Harpist & Arranger
Dr. William Chapman Nyaho
Dr. Maxine B. Mimms
Behind the Scenes:
Jade Solomon Curtis
Dr. B. E. Boykin
Director of Photography & Editor
Amy Van Mechelen
Ibidunni Ojikutu, Soprano
A frequent performer in the Pacific Northwest (and Bellingham High School alum), Soprano Ibidunni Ojikutu is known for having a strong foundation in traditional and contemporary repertoire and has studied extensively in both areas. Ms.Ojikutu made her Seattle Opera debut as Strawberry Woman in their 2011 production of Porgy and Bess. Opera News said of her performance, “Ibidunni Ojikutu's turn as Strawberry Woman was as charming as the lilt in her voice.”
A recipient of the top award in the Seattle Opera Guild Training Grant Competition, Ms. Ojikutu is a teaching and freelance artist with Seattle Opera Outreach and Seattle Opera. Ms. Ojikutu was also pleased to reprise the role of Strawberry Woman in Seattle Opera's 2018 production of Porgy and Bess along with making her role debut as Serena in the same production. Other Seattle Opera performances include singing the debut of “Burn” a new opera created for the Seattle Opera Creation Lab.
Ms. Ojikutu was thrilled to make her debut with Seattle Art Song Society (SASS) as a performer in their Black Voices and Womxn's Voices Concerts. It was also a privilege to be included as a featured artist on Lakewold Garden's "Music From Home" concert series, as well as being a featured performer on Bellinghham Symphony Orchestra’s “Home For The Holidays” concert.
Ms. Ojikutu's project, Roar with collaborative pianist Rebecca Manalac, was a concert of songs of and about women. Featuring the works of Florence Price, Nina Simone, Libby Larsen, and others, Roar also featured the west coast premier of "Nobody Knows" with words by Mahze Kane & music by Nailah Nombeko.
Upcoming projects include a debut with Portland Opera in their upcoming production of Pulizter winning “The Central Park Five” as well as a currently unnamed recording project featuring Libby Larsen’s “Try Me Good King”. Ms. Ojikutu is also an active adjudicator and masterclass clinician.
Jade Solomon Curtis, Director
Jade Solomon Curtis is a curator, choreographer, dance artist and the Creative Director of Solo Magic, a non-profit arts initiative; Activism is the Muse™. Her newly launched endeavor, Radical Black Femme Project (www.RBFP.org) is a globally-focused residency project that supports creative work in the realm of resisting racism, subverting transphobia, and supporting justice, safety, and equity with an emphasis on counter-culture conversations.
Curtis’s works have been inter/nationally commissioned by the Chan Centre for the Arts, Seoul International Dance Festival, Seattle Art Museum, Northwest African American Museum, Common Ground Music Project (Cuba), and Grammy Winning jazz musician John Clayton (NYC) amongst others.
Curtis received her BFA from Southern Methodist University and is the recipient of fellowships, residencies, and grants from the Seattle Office of Arts & Culture, Artist Trust, University of South Carolina, Duke University, 4Culture, and New England Foundation for the Arts.
B. E. Boykin, Composer
Dr. Brittney Boykin (Dr. B.E. Boykin) is a native of Alexandria, Virginia and comes from a musical family. At the age of 7, she began piano lessons and continued her studies through high school under the tutelage of Mrs. Alma Sanford. Mrs. Sanford guided her through various competitions, such as the NAACP’s ACT-SO competition where she garnered 1st place for 3 consecutive years in the local competition. Also, in the spring of 2007, Dr. Boykin was awarded The Washington Post “Music and Dance Award.”
Dr. Boykin pursued her classical piano studies at Spelman College under the leadership of Dr. Rachel Chung. During her time at Spelman, Dr. Boykin was the student accompanist for the Spelman College Glee Club for all 4 years. While being an active student in the music department, she also enrolled in an introduction to composition course which challenged her musical imagination. It was here where she began to compose and arrange a number of choral compositions. Her compositions quickly became popular within the music department, which included her arrangement of “Go Down, Moses” and a setting of “Ave Maria.” In fact, both of these arrangements were performed and recorded by the Spelman College Glee Club during her sophomore, junior and senior years. During her tenure at Spelman College as a student, Dr. Boykin also won 1st place at the 2009 James A. Hefner HBCU Piano Competition at Tennessee State University and traveled abroad to perform in the Grumo Music Festival in Grumo, Italy during the summer of 2010.
After graduating Spelman College in 2011 with a B.A. in Music, Dr. Boykin continued her studies at Westminster Choir College of Rider University in Princeton, New Jersey. She continued to compose music during her time at Westminster and was awarded the R and R Young Composition Prize just a few months shy of graduating. In May of 2013, Dr. Boykin graduated from Westminster Choir College with a M.M. in Sacred Music with a concentration in choral studies.
Dr. Boykin’s choral piece, “We Sing as One,” was commissioned to celebrate Spelman College’s 133rd Anniversary of its founding at the 2014 Founders Day Convocation. She has also been featured as the conductor/composer-in-residence for the 2017 Harry T. Burleigh Commemorative Spiritual Festival at Tennessee State University. Dr. Boykin’s instrumental and choral works are currently being published and distributed through her own publishing company, Klavia Press.
She is currently an Assistant Professor of Music at the Georgia Institute of Technology. Additionally, Dr. Boykin recently obtained her PhD from Georgia State University with an emphasis in Music Education.
Mona Terry, Harpist
Harpist, pianist, and composer Mona Terry is motivated by the restorative power of music to transform and heal. Through her work as a therapeutic musician and private music instructor, Mona builds on her impressive roster as director for prayer/meditation services as well as guided demonstrations on the healing qualities of vibrational sound.
Mona’s move to the Pacific Northwest expanded her calling as a performer, composer and artistic director with String Song Music, Resonance; Pacifica Harps and Harambe Harps. In collaboration with Seattle’s Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute and Parents for Student Success, Mona remains committed to a community project entitled, “Let the Strings Speak.” Here she offers cultural exposure to the creative arts, with an expanded approach to racial awareness intentionally focused on reformation and unification. This project reflects her ongoing mission grounded by the teachings and cherished relationships with Dr Maya Angelou and Dr Maxine Mimms.
Through her calling as an Interdisciplinary Guide, Mona supports individuals at critical stages of life processes. She encourages each listener to experiences new thresholds of growth, self-awareness and transformation with her music. Mona’s original music and arrangements are featured on two self-produced CD recordings, “A Path Seeking Harmony” and “Peace, Joy & Wonder…Christmas.”
In the Garden of Sonder features original harp arrangements by Mona Terry.
Jessica Evotia Andrews-Hall, Pianist
Jessica Evotia Andrews-Hall is an award-winning pianist who is in demand as a collaborative performer, teaching artist and arts advocate. Her past teachers include Michi North, Dr. Peter Mack, Dr. Rebecca Steele, Francis Walker-Slocum and Dr. Karen Walwyn. Under their guidance, she has performed at venues like Carnegie Hall, the White House and Benaroya Hall. In 2011, Jessica became a Seattle Symphony teaching artist where she was an early education childhood specialist and created music curriculum for babies and preschool. She also led Carnegie Hall Link Up residencies that taught hundreds of students to perform along side the orchestra. She also helped homeless families write and record songs with Seattle Symphony musicians for their children during The Lullaby Project. In 2013, she was featured in a traveling museum exhibit called Treemonisha: Celebrating African Americans in Classical Music. In 2019, Jessica became a pianist for the Pacific Northwest Ballet and recently completed her third tour with the Seattle Opera. As an avid arts advocate, Jessica uses music to inspire, motivate and empower people. She is the owner of JAM Studios which is a large vibrant piano studio where she teaches private and group lessons for ages two to senior citizen. Jessica is on faculty at Music Works Northwest where she created a popular Parent & Me group piano class and her Creative Keyboard summer camps sell out every year. As a Steinway teacher and educational partner, Jessica has been teaching piano for over a decade and her students have went on to music conservatories, competed on nationwide televised competitions, performed on Broadway in NYC and pursued professional music careers. Jessica has an equal passion for providing quality arts education and lighting up the concert stage and she feels extremely fortunate to be doing both every single day! www.jessicaandrewsmusicstudio.com
William Chapman Nyaho, Contributing Storyteller
Ghanaian American William Chapman Nyaho received his degrees from St. Peter's College, Oxford University (UK), the Eastman School of Music and the University of Texas at Austin. He also studied at the Conservatoire de Musique de Gen̬ve, Switzerland. He has been a North Carolina Visiting Artist, an Associate Professor at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette holding the Heymann Endowed Professorship. His awards include the Distinguished Professor Award and the Acadiana Arts Council Distinguished Artist Award. He has served on the faculties of Colby College, Willamette University and is currently on the Adamant Music School faculty. Chapman Nyaho has performed in Europe, Africa, Asia, the Caribbean and North America. His recordings include SENKU: Piano Music by Composers of African Descent, ASA: Piano Music by Composers of African Descent and Aaron Copland: Music For Two Pianos. He has compiled and edited a critically acclaimed five-volume graded anthology Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora published by Oxford University Press.
Dr. Maxine B. Mimms, Contributing Storyteller
Educational institution founder, Maxine Mimms was born on March 4, 1928, in Newport News, Virginia, to Isabella DeBerry Buie and Benson Ebenezer Buie. Influenced by her grandparents' love for Marcus Garvey and educational lectures by Howard Thurman and other black leaders at nearby Hampton University, Mimms attended Booker T. Washington School and graduated from Huntington High School with highest honors in 1946. She earned her B.A. degree from Virginia Union University in 1950. In the early 1950s, Mimms served as a social worker in Detroit, Michigan. There, she was married and would eventually earn her Ph.D. in educational administration from Union Graduate School.
Accompanying her husband to Seattle, Washington, in 1953, Mimms taught at Leschi Elementary School, where Jimi Hendrix was a student. In 1961, Mimms taught in Washington’s Kirkland Public Schools until working for the Seattle Public School Administration in 1964. In 1969, Mimms served as the assistant to the director of the Women’s Bureau in the United States Department of Labor. In 1972, Mimms returned to the education field, working as a faculty member at Evergreen State College. At Evergreen State College, Mimms focused on developing an educational program that would serve place-bound working adult students. Her focus on serving the educational needs of urban, African American adult learners combined with an interest in teaching inner-city adults, led to the founding principles of the Tacoma Campus. Mimms eventually became the first Director of the Tacoma Campus, where she used her position to help satisfy the African American community’s demand for adult education programs.
In 1982, the Evergreen-Tacoma campus was formally established under Mimms’s leadership. Mimms’s mission as Director of Evergreen-Tacoma was to increase the number of African Americans in Washington with degrees and improve the household value on education for the African American community. Mimms became a national consultant in curriculum design and instructional methods. In 1990, Mimms retired as Director of Evergreen-Tacoma and became an emeritus faculty member. In 2001, Mimms was awarded the first annual Sustainable Community Outstanding Leadership Award. Recently, Mimms founded the Maxine Mimms Academy, a non-profit organization in Tacoma’s Hilltop neighborhood established to serve youth expelled or suspended from public schools.